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Old March 28, 2010, 11:26 PM   #1
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How do you deal with the fright?

I walked downstairs and saw the motion detector light go on outside. The light does go on when its windy or rainy like it is now so its not a big deal. However, if I had my pistol drawn pointed out to the field and saw a crazy person coming at the door waving their arms and yelling then I will be honest... I would be a little scared. If I had a pistol drawn, then Im not quite sure what would happen and if I were frightened enough I might pull the trigger.

How do professional law enforcers deal with the fright of being in a situation where someone startles them while their pistols are drawn? Lets say its late at night, a pistol is drawn and an unarmed crazy homeless person comes out of nowhere yelling and flailing their arms? How do you train and ready yourself for the frightful situations that might occur while the pistol is drawn?
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Old March 28, 2010, 11:36 PM   #2
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First of all, you keep your finger off the trigger... Secondly, since you specifically mention LEO's, you learn pretty quickly to expect the unexpected. After clearing a couple of houses and having the alarm reset and blare off right in your ear. Or, turning a corner to find a guy with a gun and a flashlight pointed at you (that would be a mirror), you don't get shaken by fright that easily. And finally, keep your finger off the trigger until you've CONSCIOUSLY decided to pull it.
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Old March 29, 2010, 12:32 AM   #3
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I certainly can't speak for all LEO, but in general people who are successful in potentially violent encounters often have a plan (as opposed to not having thought one through in advance).

The more decisions you make in advance, in the calm -even if you don't have all the information - the fewer decisions you will need to make in micro-seconds under extreme duress.

LEO are held to a higher standard because they function within department policy and procedures that guide their actions. (Many of their decisions are made for them - at least with respect to general policy.) LEO receive training in how to handle potentially violent encounters.

Civilians do not have the same standard operating protocols or policies. your specific situation, most people can determine whether or not they face specific threats (a deranged ex, a stalker, someone who has made an explicit threat); or the random general threat inherent to your environment.

Depending on what sort of threat you face, you construct a plan - a generic guideline that makes many of your decisions in advance ("I will dial 911, move here, aim there", etc.) Decide in advance where you will draw the line, what you will say, and what you would need (e.g. flashlight, phone, keys). Its much easier to plan out a basic response protocol by yourself when you can think about what you would do and why and how.

A technique called "visualization" can be helpful at times. Attending courses of instruction at places such as Thunder Ranch (and others) can be quite informative.

The bottom line is that when you are suddenly faced with a hostile situation and you have a firearm out, you will tend to do exactly what you have planned to do. That's how you minimize "the fright".

(If you haven't made a may flail around instead of responding in an organized manner - your reaction may be less than optimal.)


Treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect....but have a plan to kill them just in case.
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Old March 29, 2010, 07:54 AM   #4
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Every time I've had to pull my gun out in the middle of the night and go check things out, my heart is pounding and I'm scared. I keep my finger outstreached along the lower frame of the gun to make sure it is not touching the trigger. I take my sweet time listening, looking, thinking and clearing specific areas of my house in a particular order.

Being scared, in my opinion, is a good thing. If you're not scared, then there's probably something wrong with you.

Last edited by Skans; March 29, 2010 at 09:04 AM.
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Old March 29, 2010, 08:17 AM   #5
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Fright comes and goes.It's really about being conditioned.The more you encounter frightening things,the better you are able to handle it.One major problem is that if you stop being frightened,complacancy sets in and that's when you get in real trouble.I found that many times I would get jumpy after the whole thing was over.
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Old March 29, 2010, 09:23 AM   #6
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I'm not sure the fright ever goes away but training teaches control, and then takes hours and hours of dedicated training.

I can only relate to being in combat. The first time scared the crap out of me, as did the very last time. The difference being the first time was very uncontrolled, shooting at anything that moved. By the end of the year, it became sort of a game if you will. Mindset, control, practice, practice, practice.

Build scenarios in your mind and play them out. The adrenaline will pump but you will get by the tunnel vision and be able to think out procedure.
The ability to think on your feet is what will separate the winners from the losers. You have the advantage because you are on the home court. Use that advantage, take control. And....keep your finger off the trigger until you have positively identified the threat and recognize if it is indeed a threat.
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Old March 29, 2010, 09:34 AM   #7
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I don't know about dealing with fright. Being afraid seems like a natural response to being thrust into a situation were you may have to take someone's life to prevent them from doing the same to you.

\/ This is good advise though. \/

First of all, you keep your finger off the trigger...
keep your finger off the trigger until you've CONSCIOUSLY decided to pull it.
I keep my finger outstreached along the lower frame of the gun to make sure it is not touching the trigger. I take my sweet time listening, looking, thinking and clearing specific areas of my house in a particular order.
keep your finger off the trigger until you have positively identified the threat and recognize if it is indeed a threat.
"9mm has a very long history of being a pointy little bullet moving quickly" --Sevens
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Old March 29, 2010, 10:16 AM   #8
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I would agree with what's been written already in the way of preparation, but you don't ever really get rid of fright completely. You can however minimize as much as you possibly can. Drills at ranges of having your firearm at the ready and acquiring your target and firing may help. If you have the benefit of a range with targets that you can imagine a potential threat among non-threats to help in acquiring a target it may help you. Maybe a dry-run of your home to have the potential entry/break-in points and your defenses for those entry points. Your exit strategies, secure locations in your home, stuff like that. People may think that it's bordering on paranoia but preparation is far from paranoia. I personally know my home inside and out, I keep my front and side lights on at night and can visualize quite far from my home. My issues are protecting family while subduing any potential threats, to where I have a family dog that offers me some extra hearing and alertness in situations to where I may have not heard the issue before. I've taken my cues from the dog in a few occasions to where she heard stuff before I did and her heading to the door in curiosity has been a help. Usually the next door neighbors outside but on a small handful of occasions, it was cars parked across the street for no real apparent reason and they weren't neighbors friends or family. It seemed once my indoor lights came on the cars had no further business across the street. We've had our fair share of slashed tires and egged cars so my neighbor and I watch each other's places and have recently installed USB webcams in an effort to identify the pranksters with an extreme hatred to tires and a full carton of eggs. I personally find I'm not as jumpy since preparation has taken a lot of the "what ifs" and given them a possible answer. The more answers you have beforehand, the less jumpy you may be and the other postings are right on, off the trigger and take your time assessing the situation. The more prepared you are, the less you have to worry about when you do have other things to address.
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Old March 29, 2010, 04:58 PM   #9
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Speaking from a policemans point of view... well at least this policeman anyway.

My advice would be for anyone and everyone to think tactically. Be aware of available cover, and concealment[sp?] Dont be so quick to break cover until you have a clue as to whats going on, not to break cover untill the threat is identified if there is one, dont do things that will bring attention to yourself, or your position. Stay as quiet as possible for as long as you can.

Sometimes we confuse fear with panic. What you describe above IMO is panic. I believe that panic happens when we find ouselves in iminent danger, and are unable to meet this danger. Anyone can panic. Panic can be avoided. I avoid panic situations by maintaining situational awareness, and thinking tactically.

In my opinion... and this is only my opinion... Fear is your friend. Fear is your internal warning system telling you that something isnt right, or maybe very wrong. Fear may not allways seem logical but Only a fool would ignore fear. Fear tells you to be aware of whats going on around you. Fear tells you to prepare for a situation that may do you some harm. I truely believe that EVERYONE should learn to trust their fear.

Anyway... Thats how I see it.
BTW Great thread... some great responses

Glenn Dee

Last edited by Glenn Dee; March 29, 2010 at 06:33 PM.
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Old March 30, 2010, 02:24 PM   #10
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JohnH, . . . re-read Glenn Dee's post, . . . lots of GOOD stuff there.

How do you train and ready yourself for the frightful situations that might occur while the pistol is drawn?
First, . . . you train. I know that sounds rhetorical, but you just have to get some kind of training. Personally, I am relying on some good training I got in the military about taking the time to ID the threat (friendly/foe???), . . . is it indeed a threat????, . . .

Some things that may help are shooting with a fiend and doing drills like where you have 5 targets set up, . . . maybe 3 bg's, one mother, one kid. Number them, . . . have your buddy change the numbers while you are turned 180 away from the targets and at the turn signal he calls out a number or maybe two, . . . you have to turn, ID the target, . . . decide on shoot/no shoot, . . . draw and then hit the BG, . . . all in less than 5 seconds to start with, . . . and work your way down on the time.

Yes it is a totally unrealistic scenario, . . . but it feeds your brain and muscle memory some precious practice, that may give you the edge when you DO have to ID and DECIDE.

If you have the $$$ resources, . . . there are some good schools in which you can gain some good skills also.

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Old March 30, 2010, 02:42 PM   #11
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Already been said, but the only thing that ever worked for me was training and planning before it happens not during. When dealing with a matter of a split seconds, let the trainig dictate what you do. That is what I followed back in the service and now, my wife and I have made up plans for various situations. Anger will sometimes overcome fear but not as good as training. Again, do the training, rational and planning before hand.

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Old March 30, 2010, 08:16 PM   #12
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I have only been "frightened" once in my life into drawing unnecessarily. I was walking through an Iraqi Army camp back to our building about 0100 with just my interpreter after coming out of meeting. I was crossing a parking lot and heard a loud "pop" that still to this day I swear sounded like gun fire. There was no cover but I jumped to the side scurrying towards cover and drew my weapon. I only had my M9 as we were in what was considered a "safe" area.

Seems that one of the Iraqi's had driven over an empty but closed plastic water bottle and it had exploded out. Tiredness, lateness of the hour, too much chai, whatever...

I did feel foolish but still I would probably do the same thing again.

The biggest thing is getting used to your environment and understanding what are "normal" sights and sounds. Once you get a "feel" for how things are supposed to be your adrenalin level tends to be much more stable.
Thus a man should endeavor to reach this high place of courage with all his heart, and, so trying, never be backward in war.
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Old March 30, 2010, 10:57 PM   #13
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I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert got one little detail wrong. He used the word fear when he might better have used panic.

Fear is normal. If you do not feal fear you are either blind to your environment, insane or you have trained enough to enter the state of "mushin no shin" or "no mind" where you have put aside thought and emotion, are fully open to your environment and are ready to act without need of conscious thought.

Every ped check, every car stop, every door knock, every building search, every door kick, every time was an opportunity for a lick of fear but the job needed doing so fear was supplanted by purpose and training and blunted by repeated exposure.

The things you can do to train yourself into controlling your fear are many.

1. Understand that our hardwired monkey response is to grab, clench, squeeze when we are startled or afraid and keep your damned finger off the trigger until your thinking brain puts it there on purpose.

2. Train with your tools until they no longer hold any fear or mystery for you. Then they will become true tools no different than a hammer or a TV remote control. If you can't walk a lap around your house with loaded gun in hand without having to consciously think that you have to do this, that and the other to keep from shooting the dog accidentaly you need to spend more time learning your tool. And keep your finger off the trigger until you decide you need to shoot.

3. Plan a course of action well in advance and practice it until it is wired into your muscles. Visualization is great for this. You can rehearse an action in your brain so many more times than you can with your body and you will benefit from the mental repetition just like you will from the physical. It doesn't even matter if your plan is "wrong". Just be careful to not what if every single possible thing that might happen. A small set of general purpose immediate action drills is much better than a million perfect point specific plans. Too many options is every bit as bad as no options at all. That you have a plan to follow will help keep you out of panic which as we all know is the little death that brings total obliteration. Make keeping your bugger hook off the bang switch part of your plan.

4. Ritual can be a powerful calmer. Every call out always started for me with gearing up the same way everytime. All my gear had a right place to go to in the right order. The act of armoring and arming became almost meditative. Even just pausing for the space of one good breath can help you center yourself before you have to go into the dark. Make keeping your finger off the trigger part of your ritual.

5. Face your fear over and over again. Practice getting scared and working through it. Fear is as much physical as it is mental and you can build up caluses against it. We become brave by doing brave acts. Practice bravely keeping your finger off the trigger.

6. Keep your purpose at the core of your actions. Don't start until you have identified your end point. Starting a fearful task without some idea of what a succesful conclusion entails is an engraved invitation to uncertainty and panic. Part of your purpose needs to be keeping your finger off the trigger.

Don't be afraid to be afraid. Teach yourself to do despite the fear.

And keep your finger off the trigger until YOU CONSCIOUSLY DECIDE to shoot.
"To spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary." Pournelle
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Old March 31, 2010, 12:23 AM   #14
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A cop in the town I live in was clearing a building and fired on the mirror when he saw his reflection (I get to hear these stories because my dad works for the city).

I think the key is to channel the adrenaline and have your shaky session after the fact.
l've heard police work is dangerous. Yes, that's why l carry a big gun. Couldn't it go off accidentally? l used to have that problem. What did you do about it?
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Old March 31, 2010, 06:09 AM   #15
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we train a lot, so the whole "fear factor" thing is not as prevalent. the very best advice is to get your family together and call the police. searching your house could be deadly.

remember, it may be a family member getting a drink from the kitchen.

some tips if you must clear your house; keep yours eyes open and your finger off the trigger. stop and listen before you enter a room. when you do enter it do it quick and get out of the doorway. use your light sparingly. cops often hesitate just to make sure there is a threat. many have been killed doing so, but it has to be done.
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Old March 31, 2010, 06:35 AM   #16
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Fright is good. Anyone who is never afraid is an idiot.

Fright sends the body and mind into overdrive. Adrenalin is flowing like a river. The pupils dilate to let in more light for better vision. Breathing increases to get more oxygen to the vital organs. Your whole nervous system is tingling. Every sense is at 100%.

Channel this into action, if needed. Use it, don't run from it.
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Old March 31, 2010, 12:17 PM   #17
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Fright sends the body and mind into overdrive. Adrenalin is flowing like a river. The pupils dilate to let in more light for better vision. Breathing increases to get more oxygen to the vital organs. Your whole nervous system is tingling. Every sense is at 100%.
Is that what gives you the "Slow Motion" effect?
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Old March 31, 2010, 01:36 PM   #18
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Could be, Sixer. When I've been in stressful situations, everything is slowed down and in crystal clear detail. Afterwards, I couldn't tell you s**t about it.

And that's a good caveat: after it's over, ASAP, write down everything you can clearly remember about what happened.
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Old March 31, 2010, 02:27 PM   #19
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Ability to deal with fear comes with experience. Being in situations that induce real fear, and dealing with them. Sports are good for this. Fear of failure or fear of embarrassment are just as real.

Myself I rode bulls for the better part of 17 years. I wouldn't recommend it, but I often feel that I am not afraid enough...

I find myself reading these "what would you do if confronted by a gang of..." threads and my reflex answer is, "just beat the crap out of them with my bare hands... ?"
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Old March 31, 2010, 04:24 PM   #20
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I would be a little scared. If I had a pistol drawn, then Im not quite sure what would happen
If you don't have a plan and an understanding of what is going on around you, keep the pistol in the holster.

saw a crazy person coming at the door waving their arms and yelling
That would assume that there still is a locked door between you and whatever. If it's not, lock it. If it's not sturdy enough, make it sturdy enough to add to your peace of mind.

Then consider the factors of what constitutes a righteous self defence situation. A pertinent factor here would be "opportunity". Is the person scaring you actually in a position to effectively hurt you?
Good karateka I have known were intelligent, original, capable, unpredictable, aggressive, brave, and dangerous. Most had a dark side. Daily practice for decades at hurting other people does not make liberals.

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Old March 31, 2010, 04:57 PM   #21
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Calm Before The Storm

When the "fight or flight" comes, and I decide to fight, I become very focused and very calm. Maybe I'm blessed because in every case that I have had to deal with the possibility of physical harm my mind and body rise to the challenge. I've never trained for this. It is perfectly natural for me. I try to avoid trouble at almost all costs but when I can't avoid it, I react with calm and purpose. As others have said, afterwards is when I get the shakes.
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Old March 31, 2010, 05:08 PM   #22
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OK some of these guys have been there... My experience has been similar. Once you have decided to fight things seem to become crystal clear, and extremely focused. I was told by a Dr. that the adrenallin dump allows your mind to do this. Things do seem to go in slow motion... Kind of. Doing what you must do seem's even easy. Aftarward comes the light shakes, and euphoria. And then the cold... I was told the cold was how your body deals with excess adrenallin.

I think the slow motion effect is really your mind working much faster than you understand it can... It's kind of like your mind go's on automatic pilot. This where your training pays off. When you do fight... You will probably fight the way you train.

A lot has been said about primary weapons. I believe that my body/mind is my primary weapon, and the firearn is just an extension of that.
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Old March 31, 2010, 09:17 PM   #23
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I've been a full time police officer since April 1981. Speaking from my experience only, some people seem to handle "fear" better than others.

The guys who grew up around guns, the guys who are aggressive (not Badge-heavy, but aggressive in their actions), the guys who train the most, the guys who look forward to handling "bad" calls, the guys who look at it as a test of skills and ALWAYS use sound tactics seem to be the guys who you want to be with on a bad call. I used to say "the worse the call, the more I like it." (Now that I'm older, I think I'm a little wiser and wish only for peaceful shifts!)

The guys I looked up to and who mentored me were all exceptional gunners.
We didn't go to bars, we didn't have tons of hobbies, our interests were guns and shooting, especially combat shooting. Over the years, the guys who were interested in this type of learning went to multiple S.W.A.T. and C.E.R.T seminars as well as schools presented by the U.S. Army. We trained and studied and had after-action briefings among ourselves if any of us had dicey calls. I would venture a guess and say that approx 1/3 of the active full timers I know are of this mindset. The rest are either very good and capable in other things such as investigations, traffic enforcemet, keeping the computerss serviced, etc or are just average officers.

Still, after all that, it's good to be a little "nervous". Lives are on the line. Mistakes can be made. And it makes us a little sharper when you have a little "nerves" going. I really think it's just the adreniline rush, but whatever IT is, it's not a bad feeling. On most "bad" calls, you seem to think crystal clear, like time slows down or something.

That being said, as comfortable as I and others are on gun or fight calls, we ALL have other major fears. I'm very afraid of having to do CPR. Or having to drive really fast. Same with EVERY person I know. Some are just more comfortable at doing things that others would be very afraid of.

I often think of why some men sign up for the USMC, the U.S. Army Rangers or Special Forces, the Navy SEALS or the DELTA Operators....these are all very special warriors that WANT to be in the action. Others serve admirably in other less risky positions in our military and are equally needed and also important. But a small % are motivated to really get in the fight. SOMEBODY has to do it, right?

Bottom line on this rambling post is that the more confidence you have in your abilities, the less "fear" you'll have in certain situations.
2 Thes 3:16 "Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! "
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Old April 1, 2010, 10:06 AM   #24
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I have to say, this is one of the more forthright and honest questions I've ever seen on any firearms/self defense forum. Kudos to the OP...

Mindset - Skillset - Toolset. In that order!

Attitude and skill will get you through times of no gear, better than gear will get you through times of no attitude and no skill.
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Old April 1, 2010, 10:17 AM   #25
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Research shows that things don't go slow-mo. However, you remember it like that. Interesting studies.

Also, the main thing coming out of the training literature is that FOF scenarios, realistic competitions, training in stress breathing, etc. can be really successful in avoiding the freeze.
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